Visiting the Library of Congress’ Reading Room

Twice a year, on President’s Day and Columbus Day, the stunning Reading Room of the Library of Congress opens its door to the general public. I’d visited the Library of Congress on many occasions but had never gotten a chance to really see the main Reading Room, other than through a glass window on a second floor balcony. So last week, I decided I would cross it off my DC-to-do-list.

The Library of Congress is a bibliophile’s dream. The collections of the Library include more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages, including some rare works like the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries etcetera, etcetera. The building and exhibits are worth seeing, even if you don’t get to walk into the actual main reading room. One of my favourite detail from the ornate architecture of the building is the names of authors engraved in gold lettering at the top of the columns in the Great Hall. These illustrious authors, including French writer Victor Hugo, were popular at the time and considered to have made great contributions to literature.

Ceiling Reading Room Library of Congress

Library of Congress reading room

Library of Congress reading room









Library of Congress Reading Room

Of course, one can always visit the Main Reading Room, as long as you have a current is Reader Identification Card but you’re not typically allowed to take pictures then. Also, it’s a lot more fun to do on the open house days because they have staff on hand to answer questions (and tell you how to get said reader identification card, which takes less than 15 minutes…) So save the date for next President’s Day if you haven’t been yet 😉

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